Succeed in an Advanced Placement Course

Many high schools nowadays offer Advanced Placement courses. These can be a bit daunting, but with some help from the pros, you can fly by with proficiency.


Before the Class

  1. Understand that this is a college level course and that the teachers will expect a lot from you. Expect a quiz the first day and expect it to be hard. Teachers are not going to sugarcoat anything.
  2. Be prepared. Over the summer make sure you are prepared. Have a composition or spiral notebook, a 3 ring binder, dividers, a hole punch, and lots of paper by the time your course begins. Study how to take good notes and learn how to Get Organized in Time for School. Good notes and organization come in handy later on in the year. Organize your binder; for example, for a history class you may want to organize by time periods. But, no matter what the class is, you will always need a section for writing. Write a Successful Essay is a huge part of any AP class, so if you are not good at writing, be sure to polish up your formal writing skills.
  3. Buy a prep book. Research the best prep book for your course. Prep books are written by AP or college teachers, and are usually published by a publisher focused on education. Prep books are indispensable and will provide background information for lectures and a speedy review for tests.

During the Class

  1. Bring all of your supplies to class with you. You will be issued a textbook. Take a glance at it. If you have never taken an AP class before then it is going to be like a foreign language to you, but don't worry; as you begin to understand each concept it will seem much easier.
  2. Take good notes. This article will not go into much detail over the subject, but see other articles mentioned in the Related Articles section. Take them first when you are reading the text for homework and then take them during the in-class review. Take the notes in your notebook and keep them ordered chronologically. Be sure to head each page with the subject and the date.
  3. Do the homework. If you try to slide through this by skimming, you will not get anywhere. Don't worry though; the reading is hard at first, but after Winter Break it will be a lot easier. (Also many teachers like to scare students by making the work extra hard up to Winter break to scare off the cowards, so keep that in mind).
  4. Study for tests and quizzes. Before now you may have had a pretty easy run and may have gotten good grades by just paying attention in class, but now you will need to study. Keep in mind that AP classes tend to focus more on concepts and critical thinking than facts, so don't waste your time memorizing facts if you have no idea what they mean.

The AP exam

  1. Do Well on AP Exams like you have never studied before. Depending on classes, this test will take anywhere from 3-5 hours. You will have about 50 minutes to answer 70 multiple choice questions and the rest for a couple of essays (again, depending on the exam). Cramming does not cut it for this test. Your brain will be like a pat of butter sizzling on a hot skillet so do not attempt to go to your other classes after and arrange to be picked up as you won't be able to drive yourself.
  2. Read your prep book. This prep book will focus on the big details that may be overlooked for smaller ones. Dedicate at least two weeks to studying with your prep book so it is manageable and concise. On the night before the test, study only what you need to know or what you're weak on.

After the Class

  1. Bask in your new found freedom! You are now free from the countless demands posed by teachers at their every whim.
  2. Don't stress out if you didn't get the score you expected. Most universities will grant credit based on a 3 or 4-only the really prestigious will require a 5. Even if you don't pass, realize that what you have already experienced will aid you when you go on to take the course in college.
  3. Don't throw anything away until you know your AP score! If you've thrown away all of your notes and lecture gatherings and have received a failing grade, all of the permanent and first-hand references you will have gotten during the class' duration will be gone forever! If you've received your score and know for sure that the college of your choice will accept it as credit, then do what you will with the materials, but not a moment before!


  • If you happen to have friends or relatives that are either in the course with you or whom have taken it before, ask them for help! They know what you're going through, and should provide some much-needed aid when you ask for it.
  • Some office supply stores will carry paper with a plastic lining around the holes. This plastic lining is extremely difficult to tear and will greatly aid your organization by keeping your notes tidy.
  • Instead of hole punching countless sheets, you can always use sheet protectors to keep your sheets in order.
  • If your teacher lets you, type as much as you can, and then back up the files frequently. If you lose notes or they are damaged, you can easily replace them. If you must hand write something, take a copy as soon as you can and file it away.
  • READ. YOUR. TEXTBOOK. Do not skim what is assigned as you will become very confused and fall behind very quickly.


  • Do not assume that passing the course with a poor grade is the same as passing with a higher one. Although colleges are impressed by higher-tier courses, they will be nowhere near as impressed if you pass with a C or D as opposed to an A or B.
  • Some schools do not allow students to switch out of an AP course until midterms. Keep this in mind if you have any doubt about starting the course.
  • Always mind the difficulty of these classes. Be prepared to be stressed and feel overworked, especially in an advanced Math or Science course. These classes are not to be taken lightly!

Related Articles

You may like